Folk Art PA

Master: Migmar Thopten

Apprentice: Tsering Jurme
Art Form: Dranyen (Tibetan Lute)

At the onset of his Pennsylvania Council of the Arts Apprenticeship in Folk and Traditional Arts, Tsering Jurme had already required some basic skills to play Dranyen. This grant allowed Jurme to become a more proficient Dranyen player with the help of master artist, Migmar Thopten. The Dranyen is a Tibetan Lute with which traditional Nangma songs and dances are performed. Nangma Toashe Dance is a particular type of folk dance taught in sequence. The songs played on the Dranyen, are powerful mediums that convey stories that have been part of Tibetan folklore for generations.

Tsering Jurme is a Tibetan American and community leader of Tibetans in Philadelphia. He considers it his personal responsibility "not just to bring the community together but also to pass on the rich culture and tradition to the younger generations." Through this apprenticeship, Jurme mastered the Tibetan Nangma Toashe Dance, which included learning to sing the Tibetan song, accompany himself on the Dranyen, and dance the traditional choreography. This dance is very unique and complicated with many steps making it crucial to seek guidance from master artist, Migmar Thopten. Jurme describes his experience: "The apprenticeship has been a very fulfilling experience for me. It has given me a better understanding and deeper appreciation of my Tibetan culture. I can better explain the history and the meaning of the song and dance and pass my skills on to the younger generation of Tibetans in our area."

Migmar Thopten was born in Kham, Tibet and learned traditional folk dance from his father at an early age. Thopten spent his childhood in Eastern Tibet learning the folk songs and dances from that region, but due to unrest in Tibet, he moved to India and joined the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts where he refined his skill and expanded his knowledge to include other folk dances and instruments from Tibetan refugees in India. Since moving to the US, Thopten has been teaching Tibetan folk dances and music to Tibetan children and adults. He describes his work with Jurme: "The experience reinforced my passion to teach Tibetan performing arts skills to fellow Tibetans, in hopes to preserve our culture, create opportunities to share our culture with people from other cultures, and inspire both Tibetans and westerners to learn more about our cultural heritage."